Over the years, most road bikes have been designed to suit riders of both genders. In response to an increase in not only pro female riders but also casual riding trends, manufacturers have steadily introduced more and more road bike models using women-specific designs. These bikes often include shorter tube tops, greater stand-over room, narrower handlebars, better saddles, and brake and shift levers made for smaller hands. These modifications continue to trickle down into leisure and recreational bikes, but some of the best women-specific models remain in the mid-level range.
For those interested in more serious road biking, the Giant Avail Advanced 2 Women's (*Est. $2,800) comes out on top as the best women's road bike. It has been upgraded a number of times in years past, and reviewers say the current version makes for a stable ride and is more female-specific than its competitors.
Although Giant has introduced newer 2013 versions of other Avail models that include Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting options, the Giant Avail Advanced 2 remains the best choice as a women's road and race bike. It's designed for long-distance riding as well as racing, and the carbon fiber frame is lightweight but stiff enough to achieve excellent responsiveness. A compact rear triangle and fat chainstays offer increased rigidity that's noticeable upon quick acceleration. A longer, wider headtube creates a comfortable upright position.
Triathlon Plus editors say the Avail Advanced 2 feels smooth and comfortable, and is distinctly different from its high-end competitors thanks to its vibration-absorbing rear end. Unlike other women's road bikes that feature a unisex frame with a few add-ons like narrow handlebars, the Advanced 2's frame geometry is women-specific from the ground up for the best possible fit.
The runner-up in this category, also from Giant, is the TCR Advanced W (*Est. $2,900). Reviewers say its ride quality will appeal to new riders while its race-oriented geometry will suit racers on a tight budget. BikeRadar.com calls its pedaling stiffness "among the best of the major brands," and there's a distinctively direct and efficient feel when pumping down hard.
A female reviewer at Bicycling Magazine says the TCR Advanced W uses the same compact-geometry frame as the men's TCR Advanced, but gets a Fizik Donna women's saddle, narrower handlebars and a shorter stem to reflect the slightly more upright position preferred by some women riders. Ultimately, we choose the Avail Advanced as the best women's road bike for its great value, longstanding reputation as a quality build, and versatility between long-distance riding and quick racing.